Be they a small business owner, a startup innovator, or a freelancer, surveys show that every entrepreneur wants the same thing: more time. Founders have to be involved in every step of their company: the product, the business, the payroll, the paperwork, support tickets – everything. Many business owners complain that they can’t focus on what got them passionate about work in the first place because of the myriad minor tasks which are constantly demanding their attention.

But what can you do? Small businesses can’t afford to hire more employees or take on interns to deal with menial tasks. That’s where small business automation comes in. Custom software can help you deal with all the frustrating routines of the day-to-day and lets you focus on what’s really important: doing what you love and expanding your company to reach new customers and new frontiers.

Here’s a brief guide to making small business automation work for you:

Find Tasks That Occur Repeatedly

In this life, there are few universal truths. One of them is that you’re always going to be forced to do stuff you don’t want to do. The question, then, isn’t “What tasks do I hate performing,” but rather: “What tasks do I hate performing that I have to do regularly?” Perhaps it’s the familiar tedium of cleaning E-mails out of your inbox. Maybe it’s inventory management, banking, vendor relations, meetings, payroll. Maybe it’s updating your social media profiles. It’s simple: figure out what’s costing the most valuable time and find a way to stop doing it.

Find Tasks That Computers Can Do Better

Let’s say that some important document, like the first draft of a blog post, arrives in your inbox. How many clicks does it take to deal with this issue? First, you have to access your inbox. Then, you have to scroll through the 150 other E-mails you’ve received in the past hour. Try not to get distracted while you’re doing so (pro tip: you’ve almost certainly already failed this step.) Open the E-mail. Download the document. Read the document. Pray that the document has actually been sent in a format your computer can work with (the Windows/Mac divide is bad enough without that one coworker who sends stuff that needs to be edited as a .pdf or a .jpg.) Edit the document and/or make suggestions on how to improve it. Back to the inbox. New message. Add recipient E-mail. Write a subject line. Write a response. Try to remember which one is the attachment button. Click the “link” button instead. Click the attachment button. Navigate to where you saved the document. Tell G-mail – for the 1000th time – that it’s okay to send documents as Drive links. Click send. Give up on all electronic communication. Become hermit.

Sure, I’m being a little facetious, but don’t tell me you haven’t encountered one or all of these problems before. In fact, statistically, dealing with E-mails is one of the most time-consuming and most widely-hated parts of the modern business environment. Which is crazy, because it’s not hard to see how the process could be easily automated. We spend countless hours doing things that computers can do in seconds. Especially if you…

Use Custom Software

Perhaps the most important thing to remember when attempting small business automation is the importance of custom software. Sure, something like MailChimp can help you send E-mails, but it can’t help you send your E-mails. Process perfection is the best way to get a leg up on the competition, and only custom software can help you complete tasks exactly the way you want it to, without just becoming another problem that you have to deal with.